Contentious trusts and probate in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

In cooperation with the the firm’s private client department and leveraging the firm’s wider litigation capabilities, the team at Anderson Strathern acts for an array of clients on a wide range of contentious trusts matters with a strong track record appearing in the Court of Session and the Sheriff Courts across Scotland. ‘Experienced and capable’ solicitor advocate Katrina Lumsdaine oversees the team, which includes Gary Burton, who was elevated to the partnership in 2022 and routinely handles work proving the tenor of wills, and senior associate Scott Flannigan.

Practice head(s):

Katrina Lumsdaine

Other key lawyers:

Gary Burton; Carole Tomlinson; Scott Flannigan


‘Very knowledgeable and experienced, very tuned in to clients’ needs and to what counsel needs too. No handholding required.’

‘Carole Tomlinson is down to earth and takes a practical view of what is best for the client. Katrina Lumsdaine is great at keeping all the plates spinning in a busy litigation practice.’

‘Katrina Lumsdaine: Experienced and capable litigator, who sits as part-time judge of the Scottish tax tribunal and brings a calm head to bear on contentious executry and trust litigations. Ably assisted by Scott Flannigan.’

Key clients

Office of the Public Guardian

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Work highlights

  • Assisted various trustees with issues pertaining to s1(1) of the Trusts (Scotland) Act 1961. These are rare and complex matters, which require a petition to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
  • Involved in the first action seeking to rectify a will in terms of s3 of the Succession (Scotland) Act.
  • Instructed by the executor in a Court of Session action to reduce a Certificate of Confirmation and to prove the tenor of a lost will.

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP combines its strength in commercial litigation with its private client capabilities to provide a broad contentious trust offering from four office locations across Scotland. Typical work includes executry disputes, winding up estates, validity of wills and various trustee issues. Mark Stewart heads the team and divides his time between the firm's Aberdeen and Inverness offices; he acts for wealthy individuals and their family trusts, and alongside contentious issues, also advises on estate, succession and tax planning matters. He shares this expertise with Alan Barr based in Edinburg. Also based in Scotland's capital, Christine O’Neill is a key contact for litigation, while Angela McCulloch in Glasgow assists trustees, executors and high-net-worth individuals with estate planning. Hayley Robertson (Edinburgh) is another key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Mark Stewart

Other key lawyers:

Angela McCulloch; Christine O’Neill; Alan Barr; Hayley Robertson


‘Brodies is one of the premier firms in Scotland and its private client and tax team is particularly strong with talented new partners like Hayley Robertson and doyens like Alan Barr.’

‘Responsive and commercial. Hayley Robertson is particularly pleasant to deal with.’

‘Brodies LLP has an excellent reputation for providing advice of the highest calibre from lawyers with a great knowledge base, experience and above all, integrity. The client experience is first class.’

‘Angela McCulloch has excellent technical knowledge, is calm and approachable.’

‘I worked mostly with Hayley Robertson and her team. They were efficient and innovative, finding solutions to problems and solving them.’

‘Extremely professional with a deep depth of knowledge throughout the team.’

‘The team is very diverse and highly technical in experience, dealing with some of the most complex cases.’

‘Angela McCulloch is an excellent lawyer and has been pivotal in our case.’

Work highlights

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Gillespie Macandrew LLP's ‘very competent‘ team has particular strength in complex taxation issues, multijurisdictional estate matters and contentious trust administration work. The team is led by Agnes Mallon, whose broad practice covers contentious cases involving foreign assets. John McArthur, a ‘leading light’ in contentious trusts law, specialises in inheritance tax appeals and succession planning, while John Stirling has significant expertise advising on legacies and the validity of wills. Eilidh Adams advises on multijurisdictional estate planning and domicile issues. Senior solicitor Conner McConnell, who handles a wide variety of disputes work, is another key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Agnes Mallon

Other key lawyers:

John Stirling; John McArthur; Conner McConnell; Eilidh Adams


‘Great strength in depth, good teamworking culture.’

‘John McArthur is very experienced with a good balance of technical knowledge and practicality. John Stirling is a first-class litigator, has excellent judgment of the strengths and weaknesses of a case and knows how to develop a strategy. Conner McConnell has provided superb support. He is efficient and knows when to raise questions for the better progress of the case.’

‘There is substantial knowledge and experience in this team. John McArthur is a leading light in this area of the law.’

Work highlights

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Acting for high-net-worth private individuals and trustee clients, Shepherd and Wedderburn has demonstrable strength in complex high-value trust and executry disputes. Tax and succession planning specialist Christopher McGill jointly heads the team with Elaine Brailsford, whose practice covers contested executries and trusts alongside trust variation petitions. Alexis Graham advises on estate planning and trust law, while Douglas Sinclair is a key contact for matters with an international dimension; his work includes succession planning, wills, trusts and personal taxation. Senior associate Stephanie Hepburn has particular expertise in will interpretation and validity disputes.

Practice head(s):

Christopher McGill; Elaine Brailsford

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Hepburn; Malcolm Rust; Gillian Campbell; Douglas Sinclair; Alexis Graham

Burness Paull LLP

With the arrivals of private client expert Euan Fleming from Gilson Gray and tax specialist Christine Yuill from Pinsent Masons LLP in 2022, the private client practice at Burness Paull LLP has recently been on a growth path. The group is jointly led by ‘outstanding’ litigator Ashley Jones and dual accredited trust and private client tax law specialist Claire Macpherson; this setup enables the team to advise beneficiaries, executors, high-net-worth individuals and families on the full spectrum of private wealth disputes, including contentious wills, taxation and trust administrations.

Practice head(s):

Claire Macpherson; Ashley Jones

Other key lawyers:

Euan Fleming; Christine Yuill


‘Expertise in an approachable manner.’

‘Efficient, prompt and clear.’

‘Well organised proactive team with the various necessary specialisations. Communication is swift and clear with sensible practical advice based on likely outcomes to control the downside of any action.’

‘Ashley Jones and Claire Macpherson dealt with our work and were both outstanding in efficiency, knowledge and advice. We clearly mattered to them as individuals and were NOT just another case. I would have no hesitation in recommending them.’

Work highlights

  • Advised on a rare case in which the complex issue of domicile has been litigated in the Scottish courts.
  • Advised on a complex cross-border dispute in relation to the estate of an overseas domiciliary raising numerous contentious issues on applicable law.
  • Advised on a professional negligence action against the client’s former solicitors and financial advisers in relation to inheritance tax and tax planning advice.

Morton Fraser MacRoberts

Richard McMeeken and Sue Hunter jointly lead Morton Fraser MacRoberts's executry and trust litigation team, which regularly advises high-net-worth individuals and families on high-value succession planning matters as well as on the administration of trusts and estates. Solicitor advocate McMeeken has significant experience handling contentious trusts, executry and probate matters before the Court of Session and in Sheriff Courts, while Hunter, a chartered financial planner and head of the firm's private client sector group, is the key contact for non-contentious work in this space.

Practice head(s):

Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Murray Beith Murray LLP

Private client boutique Murray Beith Murray LLP has demonstrable strength advising high-net-worth families and individuals on high-value, cross-border trust litigation. Succession planning and asset protection specialist Andrew Paterson heads the team, which includes associate Kathryn Johnston, a key contact for cross-border and international matters, as well as Peter Shand, who advises on tax planning and inheritance issues. Private client and rural property law expert Hugh Younger retired from the partnership in February 2023 but continues to act for clients as consultant.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:

Kathryn Johnston; Peter Shand


‘They are a friendly, informative practice and respond in a very timely manner to queries, particularly Andrew Paterson.’

The provide a very good service.

Work highlights

  • Completing the administration of a complex estate, and considering a potential claim against the executors’ previous solicitors for their potentially negligent work in relation to the inheritance tax position.
  • Acting for the trustees and the directors of the underlying family business (owned by the trust) on the division and dissolution of the trust.
  • Advising a widowed client in relation to her interest in her husband’s estate, including advice on a potential legal rights claim.